SAINTS PRESERVE US
Google ‘Rabbit Ears’
A century or so from today historians will hang a handle on our times and give this remarkable era of ours a name for the remainder of human history. The current phrase in vogue is The Information Age, which seems grossly inadequate, as if bitter, puerile shame exposures and celebrity gossip internet sites are the best we can do. Consider the miniscule timeline from the establishment of ‘dark satanic mills’ to their usurpation by binary code. Something like The Digital Revolution is more encompassing though it’s manifested by mere invisible ones and zeros.
With every revolution comes the wall the losers must be lined up against. Your newspaper isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t publish on Sundays anymore and early week editions are thin and stand alone sections are often combined. The industry is struggling to survive, costs are rising and subscriber bases are declining. In these amped and caffeinated days the nature of print production means that while your morning paper may be hot off the press, it is already a relic, a portrait of the world as it was some 20 hours ago. Can’t go for that, no can do anymore. But something more mundane torqued the industry’s downward spiral: classified ads, the grey, dreary lifeblood of tabloids and broadsheets alike, migrated to a new online medium taking their essential and reliable revenue with them.
Old school network television may now be a passenger on that same sinking boat. Technology has freed viewers from tuning into their preferred shows in real time (sports or breaking catastrophic news being the exceptions). And who doesn’t relish picking up the remote and zapping a commercial? You can’t help but feel a little like Elvis pulling a Magnum on the big screen in the Jungle Room. The expansion of the television universe has also fostered debate regarding our storytelling art forms: have specialized cable channels with content so superior to the tired dreck of traditional networks like CTV, NBC, ABC or CBS, actually killed the novel with cleverly crafted long-form serials like The Wire or The Sopranos? Finally, television is no longer the sole purveyor of moving pictures.
The death knell of old school television will be struck by advertising, specifically the lack of it. The Wall Street Journal this week reports that Google’s YouTube is proposing to essentially guarantee media buyers traditional idiot box gross ratings points (GRPs), an hitherto unavailable quantifiable measurement of return on investment for marketers desperate to reach those hip, young, tipping point eyeballs scanning fresh platforms for alternative video distraction. Mere mouse clicks are so 20th century. Tin foil and rabbit ear network ad spends, once lock-stepped with the early evening manna of primetime - We’re still the one! - must ultimately go the way of the classifieds in your daily newspaper.